Monday, August 9, 2010

The Interactive Potential of Web 2.0

The following is the abstract for the paper to be presented at the EASST Conference 2010:

'Practicing Science and Technology, Performing the Social,'

University of Trento, Italy, 2-4 September 2010 see:

The point here is that in light of Web 2.0 it is necessary to reconsider how we conceptualise what is happening. The first step may well be to construct more complete and differentiated descriptions of what is happening in Web 2.0, who is involved, and the practices entailed, in order to inform and enrich new concepts or reworkings of our theoretical staples. It is here that a movement toward a more descriptive sociology may fit. (Beer and Burrows 2007)

Following the position of Beer and Burrows (2007) this study poses a re-conceptualization of Web 2.0 interaction in order to understand the properties of action possibilities in and of Web 2.0. The paper discusses the positioning of Web 2.0 social interaction in light of current descriptions, which point toward the capacities of technology in the production of social affordances within that domain (Bruns 2007; Jenkins 2006; O’Reilly 2005). While this diminishes the agency and reflexivity for users of Web 2.0 it also inadvertently positions tools as the central driver for the interactive potential available (Everitt and Mills 2009; van Dicjk 2009). In doing so it neglects the possibility that participants may be more involved in the production of Web 2.0 than the technology that underwrites it. It is this aspect of Web 2.0 that is questioned in the study with particular interest on how an analytical option may be made available to broaden the scope of investigations into Web 2.0 to include a study of the capacity for an interactive potential in light of how action possibilities are presented to users through communication with others (Bonderup Dohn 2009).

To depart from the perception of technologically determined production orders the paper poses the “cultural doping” of interaction in Web 2.0 following Harold Garfinkel’s (1984) analysis of normative social science. This position illustrates how pre-existing social orders have been assumed into Web 2.0 technology affording it the role of producing social context. The study poses that in unraveling such ideas the function of affordances in producing social meaning can influence a better understanding of the interactive potential involved as a human production rather than a technological rule (Gibson 1979; Norman 1988; Hutchby 2001; Best 2009). In doing so ‘the user’ and the context of use rather than tools become the central means for explaining what is happening in Web 2.0. For this reason the study poses that Web 2.0 is better understood as a container technology (Sofia 2000) The positioning of container technologies is pertinent to explaining how a re-conceptualization of Web 2.0 participation can occur by prioritizing the user and the context of participation with objects in contrast to the object itself. In this way objects are exploited because they afford the user of the object with an interactive or action potential, which is only understood in context to the user’s local rationale. In considering the role of container technologies, Web 2.0 requires an examination from a local point of view or “eye of the participant” and calls for a methodology that provides this level of insight.

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